Making it real

SO masterclass

Leeds City Council CEO Tom Riordan introduces the Sociable Organisation seminar

Sometimes things happen and it just feels right.

The above moment was a big issue, for me and my organisation. An idea that could easily have been left in a pub somewhere became real. Leeds City Council gathered 90 of its most senior staff together to discuss a concept that might just help us become a different organisation.

‘Sociable Organisation’ is a working title being used to pull together various areas of work that could simply be described as ‘doing the right things’ rather than doing the same old things. You can follow the buzz on twitter at #trulysocial.

It isn’t the old chestnut ‘we’ve got a new plan’ in disguise either, as on this occasion we don’t; nor a strategy or a road map or a blue print. At this stage we just need to start and keep the buzz around this ‘sociable’ idea going and have discussions about how we work, where we work and who we work with and how it might be done better. We need to find ways to do some things differently to see what effect it has, within appropriate rules and legal structures obviously.

At the above event, various speakers presented around the concept that we need to be better informed and aware of who we are, what skills, experience and information we have and can share that will help us work smarter. As a colleague subsequently tweeted “the challenge for the sociable organisation seems to be in persuading people that collaboration can replace existing ways”

In a presentation called ‘The Networked Watercooler’, Dr Nicola Millard, BT customer experience futurologist [top job title!] challenged current ways of working in an inspired talk. For instance by 2020 there will be five generations working together. They will work in different styles; together they will possess a mix of skills, experience and knowledge that will be different from our current ways. We need to celebrate this and not let conflicting styles hold us back.

Following the above session, I spoke about where the ‘sociable organisation’ concept came from, which was a suggestion by the Local Government Association that we should put a social media friendly mark on our publications and web pages to alert residents to the fact that we had embraced social media. Fact is though; we aren’t social media friendly yet and it really won’t help the people in Leeds who aren’t online or the staff who aren’t connected to our network either. And if people get the service they expect, through what ever channel, do we we really need a badge for this? So the idea is really about being more sociable and exploring what a truly social place to be might be like, on the inside and from the outside.

But I also suggested the sociable idea would go nowhere if we didn’t embrace the opportunities of our new social intranet, shared our contact details, what we were working on, what people could ask us about and how we shared what we are doing. Information is everyone’s power. Staff could be shared, work across departments, loaned out to learn new skills on the job, or run sessions to train each other. Not much is out of scope if we believe it will happen. And that includes the work around providing a connection for those in our city and indeed staff in our organisation who are digitally excluded. That in itself is a major part of being sociable.

Colleagues then demonstrated our new social intranet and then requested those present to, firstly update their profile and relevant information then, take back the #trulysocial concept back to their teams with the initial task to explore and discuss what being a social media friendly place to be might mean to them.

We offered two discussion forums for council staff to have a debate or provide a viewpoint. One was here on the Sociable Organisation blog where we have been openly exploring what a truly social place to work might be. We also opened up a staff only discussion forum. Why two I know some will say? Well, in creating places where people feel comfortable to dip their toes in to new ways of working (for them) we have to provide an environment where we can learn, feel confident it is a safe environment and gain experience in how these new ways work.

Both discussions will be used to shape moving nearer to being that social media friendly organisation.

Feedback since the event has been overwhelming.

“please can you come to our leadership team and do an extended session on #trulysocial”

“my manager couldn’t attend – they have to hear this”

“What do we need to do now?”

“Please just keep on doing what you are doing; this will make such a difference”

“We never got this change stuff before cos it wasn’t explained like this”

Some days you go to work and hope what you do makes a difference. I know this day will make a huge difference.

Thanks to all who encouraged me to do this. You know who you are.

Phil Jewitt
Not a Futurologist
Leeds City Council


About Phil Jewitt

Comms guy and meaning maker, living in that place between personal and professional. Home is Leeds, Yorkshire. I work in communications for Leeds City Council, the 2nd largest council - with a lot to talk about and a lot to listen to.
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5 Responses to Making it real

  1. Fiona says:

    This is great, the concept of a sociable organisation moving into the future really is inspiring, challenges will need to be managed, but let’s be open minded about where it can take us all!

  2. Phil Jewitt says:

    Thanks for the response Fiona. Open minded is a good place to be.

  3. Dylan says:

    Phil Jewitt Nowologist helping Leeds city council realise their collective potential.

  4. Pingback: The first rule of #hrpizza… | HR Em

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